Rothera. The tropical paradise so beloved by my fellow tech team-mate Nick. Nick had done two winters at Rothera and was often wont to wax lyrical about its beauty – especially when compared to Halley. Now although I was initially disappointed to leave Halley via a different route the silver lining was the fact that I got to spend a short amount of time in Rothera.
Way back in 2013, when I was a bright-eyed newbie getting ready to head south, I spent a bit of time with quite a few of the people heading off to winter there and I looked forward to saying hello as well as just wanting to see the place. Before getting the post at Halley I’d obsessed about all the BAS bases and I’d love to visit them all.
So first on that list – Rothera, what’s all the fuss about?
Well first off it is pretty much as beautiful as folk had said. Snow covered peaks surrounding a bay full of ice bergs and wildlife – what’s not to love about that?
As well as it being pretty scenic (bit of an understatement) it was really nice just to actually walk on solid ground after so long floating on ice.
Not a bad old view if you’re living at Rothera eh?
As well as some cracking views the place has its other attractions.My personal favourite has got to be the wildlife – you know stuff other than humans that are alive. This was something that, apart from the coolest animal on the planet – The Emperor Penguin, has been in short supply during my time south. On the whole I’ve been in a world where, apart from visiting skuas or petrels or seemingly lost and confused Adelie penguins there’s not so much as a bacterium. Rothera however, even during a bit of a quite spell, is full of all sorts of stuff flying, swimming, waddling or just sleeping.
The gravel and rock beaches surrounding the base have the appearance of some sort of after party with various seal party casualties sprawled all over the place.
The other seals lazing around everywhere are the Elephant seals. If you’ve heard anything about elephant seals then you’ll know that they are big. Really big. You still don’t get just how big though, until you’ve seen one. The bigger males seem to be roughly the size of a long wheelbase van. The ones I saw were females and younger adult males – so none of the full size beach-master monsters unfortunately.
The smaller females (still pretty big by the way) are much more photogenic than the males and also seem to be better mannered.
The males seemed to be quite a bit less gentile. Growling, burping and farting pretty much constantly – you don’t need to get too close before you can smell them. Stench aside though they are fairly impressive animals. Hopefully one day I get to go see a full breeding colony of these giants, complete with the colossal mature males and their proboscis like noses and dramatic, violent disputes. I could live without smelling them again though…
They have other stuff in Rothera too. Birds. Lots of em.
Like the Imperial Shag shown above.
There you have it. Rothera is quite good. Alright it’s fairly spectacular. Obviously more classically scenic than the desolation of the Brunt ice shelf but still pretty good.
It was nice to see the contented look on Nicks face too!
next up: The RSS James Clark Ross